Los Angeles hip-hop trio Clipping have been hoarding critical attention since their debut, ‘Midcity’, caught everyone out with its frantic minimalism and messiness early last year. That record used white noise, collages of sound and clipped beats to announce the group’s arrival with impertinence, but having found their niche, ‘CLPPNG’ is an altogether softer affair. The leftfield instrumentals are overlayed with palatable versus, hooks and choruses you could sing along to. For the most part, it works well, although ‘CLPPNG’ has some serious troughs.

Unsurprisingly, the album starts at full throttle – with a pitchy electronic squeal and a salvo of Daveed Diggs’ observational rap. ‘Intro’ is the most direct nod to ‘Midcity’ here, which started in a similar fashion, but for the remaining 55 minutes or so they curb their eccentricities. Lead single ‘Work Work’, is the new Clipping at their best – all minimal bass and cowbell, whilst Diggs flexes his narrative muscles. It has the almost unrecognisable skeleton of a trap beat buried beneath its foundations, and Cocc Pistol Cree’s verse is the best guest appearance on the album.

Though coming from totally opposing fields – Jonathan Snipes is one half of the tongue-in-cheek production duo Captain Ahab, whilst William Hutson makes drone as the elusive Rale – the two producers here have oodles of experience making fringe music, and it shows. During its verses, album peak ‘Dominoes’ apes minimalist grime producer Logos’ production template – all icy bass, spacious beats and lasers – before seamlessly pulling its fuzzed piano line out of nowhere for the chorus. ‘Taking Off’ uses a frantic percussive line, but rather than drawing out a proper rhythm, it adds eerie pertinence to the song’s echo. By the time that saxophone kicks in you feel like you’re stranded in a dystopian jazz club.

Of course, not all is swell. ‘Tonight (ft Gangsta Boo)’ is totally out of place in an album whose most laudable trait otherwise is how cerebral it is. It’s an ode to Friday night lust that is about as blunt as its subject matter. ‘Dream’, on the other hand, tries much too hard at soft-spoken profundity, and instead dips further and further into cliché.

More often than not, however, Clipping find their balance. Though lyrically complex, and often lightning fast, Daveed Diggs is deft and acrobatic with his words. He can be brutally honest and astute, as on ‘Ends’: “Broke robbing the broke”, “Shoot up in the air, see where it come down, don’t look now” and then go pen the delightfully flippant intro of ‘Inside Out’. Even ‘CLPPNG’’s conspicuous low points pale alongside these dizzy peaks.


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